AP Credits and Exemption Exam

What physics course should I start with?

Please see this discussion.

Does a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement (AP) test in physics qualify me for taking a higher-level physics course?

No. In order to skip introductory physics course(s) for the purpose of enrolling in a higher-level physics course, you need to take a Physics Exemption Exam that is offered by the College online during the summer. AP credits in physics may be counted towards credit for graduation if you choose not to take physics at Wellesley.

Am I required to take the Physics Exemption Exam in order to enroll in a physics course?

No. The Physics Exemption Exam is entirely optional, and is only used for exemption from Classical Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism. Whether or not you choose to take the exemption exam, all students interested in pursuing a physics major should normally start the physics sequence in Physics 100 (special relativity and quantum mechanics).

What's on this exam? How should I study for it?

The Classical Mechanics exemption exam is a multiple-choice test in an online format.  A formula sheet is provided, but the exam is otherwise closed-book.  There is a 90-minute time limit. One good way for you to decide if it is appropriate for you to take the Classical Mechanics exemption exam is to look at the sample questions and syllabi. They should give you a sense of what the exam will be like. If you decide to take the exam, we strongly recommend that you spend time reviewing material from your high school physics course(s).

Who should take the Physics Exemption Exam?

This exam is intended for students who have a strong high school preparation in physics and are interested in taking a physics course that has a prerequisite of PHYS 107 (Principles and Applications of Mechanics with Laboratory) and/or PHYS 108 (Principles and Applications of Electricity and Magnetism, and Optics with Laboratory). In other words, you only need to take this exam if you wish to place out of these courses in order to take a more advanced physics course.

Students who exempt from PHYS 107 will be offered an opportunity to take an exemption exam for PHYS 108. This second exam is also optional, and is intended for students with a strong background in Electricity and Magnetism who wish to place out of PHYS 108 in order to take a more advanced course.

Most students who took AP physics in high school are still best served by taking PHYS 107 and 108 at Wellesley. The material in these courses forms an essential background for all of our more advanced courses. There are relatively few students who end up being exempted from PHYS 107 and even fewer who are exempted from both PHYS 107 and 108. These courses are taught at a level that is higher than that of most high school courses, including a typical AP physics course. The laboratory exercises that accompany these courses are also typically quite different from the laboratories that are found in most high schools.

Our experience has been that unless a student has an unusually strong high school physics (and math) preparation, she will be best served by taking PHYS 107 (after PHYS 100). Few people report feeling bored or unchallenged in this course. Of course it makes little sense for those students who do have a preparation equivalent to the one offered by PHYS 107 and 108 to repeat these courses. The purpose of the exemption exam is to identify these students and guide them to a course at the appropriate level.


Does my performance on this exam appear on my Wellesley transcript?

No, it does not. Results of the exam are kept strictly confidential and will appear nowhere on your Wellesley College transcript.

If you have more questions regarding the exam, or if you are unsure about whether or not to take it, please feel free to contact the Chair of Physics Department.